So, you want to think like a strategist? Okay, awesome—you can do this! I know you can because I do it, and I’m not a strategist. Typically, my head is in the weeds, deep in the details of making sure I know and understand all the things that need to happen to make a solution work.

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Thinking like a strategist is a skill set we all can learn and use to better our business conversations with clients and coworkers. This skill has helped me collaborate better with my teammates when working on complex email marketing programs for clients and allows me to offer suggestions to the business that aligns with its goals.

As a process-driven person, I’ve detailed my four-step process for thinking like a strategist:

1. Stop thinking about everything

You literally must stop your mind from pulling in all the details of the “how.” Suspend some critical thinking and allow the possibility to be possible.

2. Instead, learn about the business and its customers

What are the business goals?

Always ask and never assume what the business thinks it might need or where it would like to be in one, five, and 10 years.

What is already in place?

You don’t want to suggest an abandoned-cart email series when its already implemented. Look at every tool and program available within the business first.

Who are the ideal customers?

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Explore the customer demographic information and engagement data. What are the benefits of interacting with the business? One idea is a simple welcome email series following an initial purchase that establishes a relationship with the business’ customers.

3. Think about other companies

What has worked well to drive the goals and initiatives at other companies that are like the business goals of the company you’re trying to help?

Consider what the company’s competitors are doing and if it is more beneficial? Even slight improvements in a single program can provide learnings that can inform and impact strategy across an organization.

4. Make a list of ideas

Capture everything.

Give yourself the freedom to write down every idea you have. Adopt the notion that no idea is a bad idea. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my ideas and help me sort, remove duplicates, and add detail down the road. Make sure to revisit company goals, customers, competitors, and potential future initiatives while you’re brainstorming. You don’t want to miss any ideas by focusing on one area too much.

Associate your ideas with business goals.

This helps start the evaluation process. If an idea doesn’t have an associated business goal, it will eventually go to the bottom of the list. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It simply means this may not be an idea the company should focus on at the moment.

Rank by the level of effort.

Here is where you allow your “how” brain to do a little critical thinking, but not too much. All you’re looking for here is a quick indicator. Personally, I like to use the options low, medium, and high in my rankings.

Once you’ve completed working through the process, do a simple sort in your Excel spreadsheet by the business goal and level of effort. Then review. If you’re feeling nervous about presenting it, discuss it with a coworker.

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Don’t allow yourself to dig into the deep weeds on any of the ideas. The important part of presenting your ideas is to know they are executable and in line with the business goals, and how you can measure success. A good rule of thumb is to know what your brand’s KPIs (key performance indicators) are, how they matter to the business, and how they should change based on your plans.

There you go—you thought like a strategist! The good news is it gets easier the more you work through this process. At some point, it may even become intuitive, and you’ll find you’ve added a great skill that can add a lot of value to your business conversations.

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